Eloping in the Mountains: A Shenandoah National Park Wedding
Eloping on a mountaintop is the dream, right? Well, my friend, you don’t have to hop on a plane and head to the Rockies, there are some epic mountain wedding locations right here in Shenandoah National Park.
Find out more after the jump.
Eloping in Shenandoah National Park
When it comes to where to elope in Virginia, Shenandoah National Park seems like an obvious choice. With its well-maintained, winding mountaintop road – Skyline Drive – its abundant campgrounds, and its incredible mountain overlooks, there’s really nothing not to love about SNP.
The Best Ceremony Locations In Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park has no shortage of perfect wedding ceremony locations, whether you’re looking for popular vistas or totally private mountaintop nooks. Some of my favorite easy hikes in Shenandoah lead to the best places to elope in the entire park.
But, if hiking isn’t really your speed, there are also gorgeous overlooks dotting both sides of Skyline Drive, providing unbelievable views to the east and west, all within a few steps from the comfort of your car.
Probably the most popular ceremony location in Shenandoah National Park is Stony Man, an unbelievable rocky cliff within just a short hike of Shenandoah’s Skyland Resort. But, just like your mom said when you were in high school, you shouldn’t always do the popular thing just because it’s popular. Unless you go at sunrise in the middle of the week during the off-season, you’re unlikely to have Stony Man to yourself.
Another great spot is Big Meadows, the enormous mountaintop bald across Skyline Drive from the Big Meadows Wayside and Big Meadows Campground. While I definitely recommend working a stop at Big Meadows into your elopement day (if for no other reason than that the wayside houses one of the few bathrooms in the park), I wouldn’t recommend making it your main event.
Why? Well, it’s a meadow. You can find meadows in lots of places that don’t involve driving to the top of a mountain.
How To Legally Elope In Shenandoah National Park
As far as national parks go, Shenandoah is still one of the easier ones to elope in. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules and restrictions. Here’s a link to Shenandoah National Park’s official regulations surrounding weddings in the park.
- If you are bringing under 15 people (total) for your elopement, and you’re not planning on bringing any props like arches, then you probably don’t need to apply for a special use permit.
- Live flowers are allowed in most places as long as you don’t leave any remnants behind.
- Stay on the trails.
- Follow all regulations and restrictions, and if you’re not sure whether you can use a specific location for your elopement, you should call and confirm.
- Follow all Leave No Trace guidelines so that other couples in the future have the same freedom to get married in the park.
Things to Consider When Eloping In The Mountains
The weather along Skyline Drive is very rarely the same as it is in the little valley towns on either side of the park. Prepare for it to be cooler than you expected by bringing layers.
Additionally, fog is just a fact of life in the mountains, no matter the time of day or time of year. Fog can roll in seemingly out of nowhere in a matter of a few seconds and turn your 180-degree mountain view into a total white out. Personally, I love fog, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind. If fog is going to ruin your vision for your elopement day, plan on having a few backup locations in mind.
The wildflowers are one of my favorite things about Shenandoah National Park, and there’s usually something blooming, no matter when you’re there. There are big wildflower blooms in the spring and in the autumn, which are absolutely beautiful.
The downside to lots of wildflowers, however, is lots of pollen and lots of pollinators. If you have allergies, you might want to do some research into what will be in bloom when you’re planning your elopement. And if you’re scared of bees, well, I just can’t help you. 😉
There are black bears in Shenandoah National Park, and they get braver and braver with each passing year as careless hikers and day-trippers either leave trash and food scraps lying around or intentionally leave food to feed the wildlife.
Please be mindful of where you’re keeping your food, be sure to pack out all trash and food scraps and be aware of your surroundings.
Also, more and more wildlife is killed by vehicles along Skyline Drive each year. Please drive safely and be alert.
Where To Get Ready
Unless you’re staying at Skyland Resort, there aren’t super plush options for where to get ready. Most eloping couples will choose to stay at an Air Bnb near the park or in a campground, and just put their wedding clothes on before leaving for their wedding festivities.
But if you’re doing one of the longer or harder hikes in the park to get to your ceremony spot, you may want to consider packing your wedding clothes in your backpack, hiking in more comfortable clothes, and then changing along the trail when you get closer. They make pop-up privacy tents, or you can have your partner hold up a blanket for you to change behind.
What To Wear
- Weather-appropriate layers like nude leggings under you dress in the cold, or lightweight linen and sweat-wicking undergarments in the summer.
- Sturdy, comfortable shoes.
- Clothes that you won’t be heartbroken when they get dirty. Because they will get dirty.
- Clothes that allow your to move freely and breathe deeply.
- Jewelry and accessories that fasten securely.
What To Do On Your Shenandoah Elopement Day
- Take the whole day and drive the length of Skyline drive, stopping at every overlook.
- Climb to the highest point in the park to say your vows.
- Make your elopement celebration into a week-long backpacking trip and hike the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park.
- Spend a long weekend and visit every waterfall in the park.
- Stay up late and go stargazing in Big Meadows.
- Bring your gear and go rock climbing.
Where To Stay Near Shenandoah National Park
There are lots of epic mountain lodges, campgrounds, and Air Bnbs near Shenandoah National Park.
Whether you’re looking for modestly-priced comfort or extravagant luxury, you can find a stay to fit your fancy near Shenandoah.
One of my favorite things to do is to help my clients find the perfect lodging for their elopement getaway.
How To Elope In Virginia
Now that you’ve found where you want to elope, there are just a few other details to work out. Check out my Complete Guide to Eloping in Virginia
Meet The Author
Leah is an elopement photographer, sustainability nerd, and avid hiker who grew up right outside the north entrance to Shenandoah National Park.